‘the last straw’

In Winter 1993 a publication entered the built environment, etching its name as a hallowed journal for straw as a construction material – The Last Straw.

Emanating from USA the first issue had a national/regional take on straw construction: structural testing in Tucson; construction of an eight sided strawbale house; the Genesis farm in New Jersey; training with school children, and venturing further north in Canada for fire testing.

It came as no surprise that as the world woke up to the benefits of working with this material The Last Straw went further afield and brought together the incremental parts of natural construction: other types of natural building materials, building codes/regulations, finance (insurance and mortgages). The more recent issues also took on an international perspective with news from across the globe too (issue #4 features modular systems at ‘The Great Straw Conference’ in Cirencester in England, 1993).

Our members were evangelical about The Last Straw, not just as a networking hub, but for its notable sources of information. Sadly the last edition was published in Spring 2017.

Imagine then, our joy in late 2021, as The Last Straw resurfaced on Instagram to announce that it was returning!

For those of you that do not possess these collectors’ items, worry not – click here for the newsletter and the archive of their journal. Welcome back, The Last Straw!

ESBG 2021: Feedback Form

How did we do? Click image below to fill out quick survey.

Thank you!

UK’s First ever EPD for Straw!

For the first time this gives an accurate assessment of the environmental impact of straw production in the UK. This was made possible by the European Up Straw INTERREG funded project.

Led by The School of Natural Building this Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is hugely significant as it not only stamps its importance in the use of straw as an insulation material but will enable the construction sector to cite it as a relevant tool in lowering carbon emissions in the built environment.

Well done all at The School of Natural Building! More info is here

How easy is it to find and use natural building materials? riba interview with Janna lann/grain architecture

Here is a great article by RIBA on natural building materials featuring Grain Architecture’s Janna Laan Lomas.

Janna will be presenting at RIBA’s online event: Guerilla Tactics, 9th – 11th November. Programme details are HERE and tickets are HERE

A project of Grain Architecture‘s is below, built in collaboration SBUK members Joe Duirwyn (Hartwyn) and Jeffrey Hart

Households declare

Energising our buildings has never become more important than now.

The savvy among you would have been content to be up to speed with an ‘EPC’ or ‘U-Value’ but nowadays, the general public in the UK are seeing terminologies such as, ‘Whole House Approach’, ‘External Wall Insulation’ (EWI), ‘Internal Wall Insulation’ (IWI), ‘PAS 2035’ and ‘Retrofit’ as part of their everyday vocabulary.

What does it mean and why has it become so popular headline in our everyday lives?

Like-minded groups such as AECB, ASBP, CAT, STBA and the Architects Journal have admirably championed for the interrelated pathways of Retrofitting (better materials/products, more training et al) and more recently LETI published their formidable document, Climate Emergency Retrofit Guide which joins all of the dots of what can be a very confusing landscape.

Our friends, the Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN) have set up the campaign ‘Households Declare’ and in a very simple to understand, and concise way, spell out to the government that we need to do more in enabling ‘retrofit’ as part of the construction industry’s outlook in the built environment.

We, at SBUK support this, and with ACAN ask you to declare a climate emergency for your homes.

Declare HERE

job: sbuk secretary role

SBUK Secretary

We have a vacancy on our Board.

For a full specification of the role, please see and apply here: SBUK Secretary

Good luck!

building the future studio 3 arts community centre

The School of Natural Building are working with Studio 3 Arts to build an extension on their community centre.

Designed by architects company, Citizens Design Bureau and built by GPF Lewis and Wellspring Architecture, this is a transformation in London’s Barking and Dagenham. Read more here

Not only is the work carried out using low carbon materials including strawbales but a course next week with the School of Natural Building – 23rd to 27th August – will cover practical aspects of strawbale building: how to dress and customise bales, notching, loadbearing and infill techniques, compression of the wall, and much more. See here to enrol on the course

This project demonstrates the power of public sector partnering: in making change for the local community through Government; local statutory bodies and interdepartmental support and resources – in essence, everything we worked with UPSTRAW to deliver

Yesterday the bales were delivered – the work and fun now begins!

european strawbale gathering (ESBG) – sbuk webinar 2021

The full video of our ESBG webinar 2021 is now available here: click on a timestamp below, or, on one of the images to go to directly to a chapter

00:00 History of ESBG & introduction to SBUK’s webinar by Cypren Edmunds 07:29 StrawBale Building Basics with Phil Christopher 26:24 Cement Free Foundations with Barbara Jones 1:15:28 Q&A with Phil Christopher, Cypren Edmunds & Barbara Jones 1:36:35 Strawbuilding Project Examples with Chris Hawker 2:05:07 Technical Guide with Barbara Jones 2:34:03 Q&A with Cypren Edmunds, Chris Hawker & Barbara Jones 2:48:26 Airtightness with Paul Jennings 3:07:53 Whole LIfe Carbon: what it is and means for our materials choices with Joe Duirwyn 3:29:51 Straw & Mud: A Love Story with Jeffrey Hart 3:54:51 Q&A with Phil Christopher, Joe Duirwyn, Cypren Edmunds, Paul Jennings & Barbara Jones 4:14:56 What is SBUK & how do you join? with SBUK Directors: Phil Christopher & Cypren Edmunds

Associated weblinks from the webinar are at the bottom of this page

History of ESBG & Introduction to SBUK with Cypren Edmunds
StrawBale Building Basics with Phil Christopher
Cement Free Foundations with Barbara Jones
Strawbuilding Projects Examples with Chris Hawker
Technical Guide with Barbara Jones
Airtightness with Paul Jennings
Whole Life Carbon: what it is and means for our materials choice with Joe Duirwyn
Straw & Mud: A Love Story with Jeffrey Hart

ESBG/SBUK Webinar Links

European StrawBale Association

Huff and Puff Construction

School of Natural Building

Hawkland Ecological Construction

Todmorden Learning Centre (Tod College)

Paul Jennings


Defining and Aligning: Whole Life Carbon & Embodied Carbon

2030 Climate Challenge

Embodied Carbon – what is it and how to compare materials?

Getting to grips with whole-life carbon

AECB Lifetime Carbon Standard

Jeffrey Hart – Building Sustainability podcast

How to join StrawBale Building UK membership

architect climate action network – video of masterclass: straw

Now online for you to view at your leisure is the ‘Straw’ Masterclass we took part in last month.

Thank you ACAN 🙌 💚 for the platform to speak about this beautiful, natural material & to all speakers who participated. Click on the image below for the video

Enjoy 🙂🌾👷🏾‍♂️👷🏗🏠

ESBG 2021 – SBUK webinar

Our schedule for The European Strawbale Gathering (ESBG) 2021 on Saturday 31st is here

In the evening (7pm BST / 8pm CEST) we will be joining up with the European Strawbale Association for a special presentation

Click here for tickets now